Urban Agriculture Business Information Bundle
Finding Space: Container Gardening - Community Gardening - Rooftop Gardens
Although land is at a premium in many urban centres, there are still many potential locations for growing fruit and vegetables where municipal by-laws and requirements permit. These may include in backyards or front yards, on balconies, on roofs, in city parks, on unused lots, in schoolyards, on hydro right-of-ways ... the list goes on.
Using containers, urban residents can grow food just about anywhere there is enough sunlight: on balconies, windowsills, decks and paved spaces. Containers or raised beds also provide more accessibility for elderly or physically challenged gardeners, and they can be used when the underlying soil is too contaminated to be used to grow edible crops.
Many vegetables and herbs are suitable for container gardening. The bigger the container, the longer the list of plants that can be grown. Keep in mind that plants grown in containers are grown in soilless media that drains quickly and must be watered more frequently than their soil-grown counterparts.
For more information, see:
- The Master Gardeners of Ontario, Gardening Advice web page
- Purdue Extension's Container and Raised Bed Gardening
- University of Illinois Extension's Successful Container Gardens
For many urban dwellers without the space to grow the food they want, community gardens offer access to land. Whether they're on city-owned land or private property, these community spaces allow a group of people to grow food, either in individual plots or collectively.
According to the American Community Gardening Association, community gardens generate other benefits beyond food: they facilitate social interaction, beautify the streetscape, reduce crime and catalyze neighbourhood development.
To find a community garden near you, contact your local municipality.
Starting and Operating a Community Garden
There are lots of online resources to help you get a community garden underway, including:
- The Toronto Community Garden Network's Community Garden Handbook
- Community Gardens of Waterloo Region
Promoting Community Gardening
Municipalities can take steps to facilitate community gardens. BC's Climate Action Toolkit provides tips on how local governments can support community gardens in its Dig It Community Garden Guide.
Food Safety of Community Gardens
Food safety is as important in community gardening as it is in commercial farming. The people who eat and enjoy your fresh produce should have the assurance that this food is produced under a reliable set of food safety guidelines.
The OMAFRA Advantage Good Agricultural Practices manual offers informative advice on food safety and discusses risk assessment and reduction.
OMAFRA also offers information on traceability and how to incorporate this feature into your project.
For new food safety products and advice, check the OMAFRA food safety website.
Growing on rooftops isn't as straightforward as container gardening - there are many engineering, safety and access issues to take into account and building codes to comply with. Furthermore, not all municipalities permit rooftop gardening. But if those hurdles can be overcome, the flat roofs within cities offer otherwise unused space with excellent sun exposure.
As well as allowing urban residents to grow food, adding greenery to rooftops cools the building underneath during the summer, provides added insulation during the winter, absorbs the carbon dioxide that drives climate change and reduces storm water run-off. For more information, see Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Design Guidelines for Green Roofs. Also visit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
Rooftop gardens are not specifically mentioned in Ontario's building code (The Building Code). However, they must comply with requirements for structural loading and moisture protection.
Some cities have developed standards for green roofs. Policy makers will find information in Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's Green Roofs: A Resource Manual for Municipal Policy Makers.
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300